Internet Shakespeare Editions


Lady Margaret Hoby

Lady Hoby's diary provides a record of an Elizabethan woman's daily life, but it does so in a rather roundabout way. While many individuals use their diaries to reflect on their day, and as a way to revisit past memories, Lady Hoby used her diary as a record of her religious pursuits, including prayer, meditation, and reading. This account of Lady Hoby's spiritual discipline tends to downplay her daily secular activities, but it is important to realize that her devotion was only one part of her life, albeit an important part, and her personal letters reveal a very different speaker from the one the severe tone of the diary implies. Although the diary focusses on her spiritual devotions within her everyday life, readers may enjoy the nonreligious details in order to build up a picture of her domestic life, the way she managed her husband's estate, her work as a midwife, her charity work, and her social visits. As we read between the lines of her diary, we watch a picture of a highly esteemed and sociable woman emerging:

Wednesday 15 August 1599--
In the morning at 6 o'clock I prayed privately: that done, I went to a wife in travail of child, about whom I was busy till 1 o'clock, about which time she being delivered and I having praised God, returned home and betook myself to private prayer two several times upon the occasion: then I writ the most part of an examination or trial of a Christian, framed by Mr Rhodes, in the doing where[of] I again fell to prayer, and after continued writing after 3 o'clock: the Lord made me thankful, who hath heard my prayers and hath not turned his face from me: then I talked with Mrs Brutnell till supper time, and after walked a little into the fields, and so to prayers, and then to bed.

On another occasion she makes clear incidentally that her duties included the keeping of accounts for the household:

After private prayers I broke my fast, was busy in the kintchen till dinner time, then I prayed; after dined; all the afternoon I was busied about taking of accounts...